The Origins and Early History of North Carolina

The story of North Carolina begins in the east. In this lecture audiences will learn about the lives of the Native American, African, and European inhabitants of the state over its 400 years of recorded history. These peoples have not only shaped, but been shaped by North Carolina and its landscape. The state’s waterways and forests sustained Native American villages that were replaced in the eighteenth century by English plantations, cleared for the Whites by African and Indian slaves. All of the state’s inhabitants successfully developed and sustained a wide variety of crops including the "three sisters"-corn, beans, and squash-as well as the giants: tobacco, cotton, and peanuts. The state was also a leading exporter of naval stores and mineral wealth and later, a breadbasket of the Confederacy.

This lecture documents the long history of the state and tells how its people, at first limited by the landscape, radically altered it to support their needs. This is the story of the Native Americans, largely gone from the state for 200 years except for small populations, their material culture and artifacts. It is the story of the African slaves and their descendants and the chronicle of their struggles through slavery, the Jim Crow era, and the Civil Rights Movement. It is also the story of the Europeans and their rush to tame the wilderness in a new land. These entwined histories are visible through dozens of maps created especially for this presentation, along with vivid illustrations of forgotten faces and moments from the past.